I feel extremely thankful to be where I am today in the Garden Center Industry because of those who nurtured me and taught me in my years of being in this industry. I’ve been having true nostalgia as I reflect on the past twelve years and where I see myself going in the industry. My journey has not been easy but it is a huge part of my life as I have these different experiences and being able to grow with knowledge.
I worked at my first garden center when I was nineteen. Working at this garden center just happened to be my first step into the industry and I had no clue what I was doing. I had to work in the industry during my years at college in order to get my degree to graduate. My plan all along was to get my hours to graduate and to transfer to the college of my choice to become an Agricultural Educator. I wanted to become a teacher to educate the future of agriculture and to have the chance to give back to Agricultural Education because of all the opportunities that I had - I really wanted to encourage students the way my teacher encouraged me. To me, this job was just all apart of a bigger plan and I did the bare minimum. The store manager and the store assistant manager tried really hard, they gave me chances. They quizzed me. They believed in me. Two extraordinary women in the industry rooted for me. Eventually, all those encouraging qualities wore off and it became frustration and annoyance as the days and months went on. I was juggling college and doing horrible in college while serving my state in the FFA. I was developing damaging habits and I was being broken by someone who wasn’t the best for me. This lasted until age twenty-one; I was not rehired going into 2011. Working at this garden center for one year and seven months came to a close. There was no more overwhelming feeling of wondering what plant a pink petunia one was versus what plant a red petunia was, there wasn’t anymore running away from my boss who was very intimidating, and there was no more annoyances. Unhealthy habits started to become healthy again and I started to feel renewed by also letting unhealthy people go. I started to do really well in college and I started to feel proud again. I was healing.
I took a break from working at garden centers and I ended up working at Kohl’s. I learned valuable lessons there for customer service but I still had to actually sign up for that college course for my internship. I also started to miss being outside and being surrounded by plants. I started to search to work at garden centers and I found one. I was ready to go back to one to work. I was happy and thriving! I was ready to enter back into the garden center. I was planted. My bosses, brothers who owned a landscaping business, took me on board. They were personable and great. My store manager, someone that I truly admire today and whose drive has been such an impact on me as a strong woman. I was so excited to be apart of a business who was developing their roots by starting up a garden center! This small garden center became my backbone in the industry - my store manager taught how and why it’s important to clean and fertilize our plants, she taught me how to set up plants, she let me run the business operations by opening and closing the store, and all these other great things that were both big and small. She let me run the comps stand at the town’s farmers’ market where my socializing skills grow. She built my confidence and I was so proud. I planted myself as a seed in this business because I was at a good place, my willingness to learn was there, I was older and wiser compared to my nineteen year old self. I was being cultivated because I wanted too, not because I had too. You cannot be cultivated by others unless you plant your own seed.
I got my credit and I graduated with a pretty good GPA with also news that my bosses could not keep open the garden center anymore and that was a big heartbreak for me. I really enjoyed what I was doing and I started to apply to garden centers all over New Jersey. There was one garden center in particulars interaction that I will never forget and I love telling this story.
I walked into Mendham Garden Center’s Annandale location saying “My name is Brianne and I’m looking for a new garden center to call home. Can I fill out an application?” The store manger let me fill out an application and I filled it out at the store counter and I said thank you for your time. I hop into my car and my phone rings and it’s the Annandale’s location store manager telling me that I’m WAY too qualified to work there but he is passing my information to another location because they need someone like me. I said that it’s completely okay for you to pass that information and as I’m driving I get a call from the other location asking me if I can come in, of course I say I can be down as soon as possible. I drive for maybe twenty minutes and I’m at my next interview. I walk out with my new job. My new home.
I was hired as the department manager for the nursery and the one site horticulturist - where I would be the go to for every plant question, buying material for the company, maintaining all plant life, managing the nursery floor, and of course serving the customer. Everything that I learned from my last garden center just made sense and was fully applied to my new department manager position. As the years went on, my boss challenged me and let me grow, I’ve made connections in the industry with professionals, and developed customer relations where I’m so happy that I have the confidence to call (most) customers by name. I’ve developed leadership roles within my team that I’m so proud of and so blessed that I can call the company that I work for as my work family. Eight years later, I’m still going strong and just so lucky to grow into the professional I am today.
I really thought I was not going to make it through 2020 while working because business was very upbeat with customers but I felt chaotic because I felt like I was being pulled into directions. I really thought I may not make it and that it was the end of me being in the industry. Here I am in June 2021, planning Spring 2022 by reaching out to new vendors. I feel proud.
I feel so proud doing what I’m doing and I couldn’t have gotten here without those who I met along the way in the industry. I’m so proud with building what I’m building with The Botany Scholar - there was a point where my website stopped existing and I’m so thankful that one of my Twitter followers let me know. I’m so happy I got it back because I had no clue where I was going to go from here. I have my social media that I invest in but now I get to invest in my blog again. I get to continue to interact with -what I like to call my unofficial official colleagues - on social media. I get to make my impact beyond the garden center I work at and I would not want it any other way.